Great Escape II

May 10, 2009

Down in Anderson, SC, is a huge animal shelter with easily 500 dogs in it on a day-to-day basis. In this economy, not many of these dogs will find local adopters. Fortunately, the women that run the shelter for the city are very, very dedicated to working with rescues and transporters to get as many dogs out of their shelter as possible and on their way to parts of the country where there is not an animal overpopulation problem and where the dogs will more likely find new homes of their own. But there is a huge amount of dogs and many end up on death row...perfectly adoptable...but not able to get out in time.

Pets Alive is a no-kill animal shelter, located in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, about 1 1/2 hours from New York City. Their mission is to rescue, rehabilitate, and place animals in need. Victims of neglect, abuse, and violence, many of them have special needs and have been rejected by other organizations. Many of the animals at Pets Alive are older, have special needs or require special care. Check out their website at

Pets Alive has agreed to take over 30 "death row dogs" from the Anderson shelter, rehabilitate them and find them new homes. Now these lucky dogs just need a way to get from SC to NY...and that's where ARF comes in!


ARF Passengers:
1. Tangelo~902766~ female retriever x, 5 mos 16 lbs.
2. Denver~902401~ male retriever x, 1-2 yrs 62 lbs
3. Lola~902716~ female lab/boxer x, 1 yr 27 lbs
4. Racer~902719~ male boston x, 8 mos 22 lbs
5. Strutter~902696~ male beagle x, 4 yrs, 30 lbs
6. Yogi~ 901889~ male beagle x, 6 mos 30 lbs
7. Bambi~ 902624~ female mini husky x, under a year old 27 lbs
8. Twila~ 902838~ female boston/bassett x, 6 mos, 40 lbs
9. Scooter~ border collie x, 9 mos, male 46lbs
10. Posey~902249~female black lab x, 1 yr 43 lbs
11. Paisley~ 902717 female lab/boxer x, 5 mos 28 lbs
12. Finegan~ 901782~ adult male rat terrier, 20 lbs
13. Denali~ 902811~ female husky/hound x, 1 yr 47 lbs
14. Forbes~ male yellow lab, 2 yrs 60 lbs
15. Diggs~ 900458 male boxer x pup 6 mos, 26 lb
16. Stewy~901784~ adult male rat terrier, 20 lbs
17. Glacier~ 902273~ male siberian husky x, 2 yrs, 60 lbs
18. Fresco~ 902192~ male retriever x, 1 year, 40 lbs
19. Zesty~ 901545 female terrier x, 2 yrs, 70 lbs
20. Dilly~902917~ male jrt x, 6 mos, 15 lbs
21. Rosemary~ 902697~ female beagle x, 4 yrs, 15 lbs
22. Juniper~810759~female shep/terrier x, 1 year, 48 lbs
23. O'Malley~ dachshund, 4 mos, 48 lbs
24. Rosey border collie mix, 5 yrs, 35 lbs
25. Tigger~ bassett lab mix, 9 mos, 48 lbs
26. Bubbles ~ dalmation mix, 25 lbs
27. Oliver ~ white cat
28. Bengal~ 903351~ male pit/bulldog x, 1.5 yrs, 56 lbs
29. Possum~ female lab x pup, 5 mos, 25-30 lbs but long-legged
30. Minnie (pending possible adoption) female doxy x, 1 year, 20 lbs


Arf Pilots:
Leg #1: RUQ to FDK 272nm
1) Ted and the ARFTruck - Aztec
2) Frank Robinson - Cessna 182
3) Jerry Smith - Cessna 210
4) Matt Paxton - Bellanca 260
5) Law Wright - Beech Travelair
6) Mike McGhee - Mooney

Leg #2: FDK to MGJ 190nm
1) Chris Manner - Piper Archer
2) Vincent Liggio - Mooney
3) Al Vacchio - Cessna 172 or 182
4) Will Ownby - Piper Warrior.
5) Joe Bisnov & Lori - Cessna 172
6) Team Mutt Muffs - Cessna 172
7) Stephen Baird - Piper Archer III
8) Harold Schorr - Grummon Tiger
9) Elliott Degraff - Piper Cherokee 140
10) Robin Rebhan - Cessna 172



Shelters, pilots join forces to save pups in danger

Posted: Monday, May 11, 2009 12:00 am

5,000 FEET OVER WESTMINSTER — Diggs curled his front paws and plopped his head down. His big brown eyes drooped, his tail hung limp and breathing steadied.

Only the left ear of the retriever mix occasionally twitched as Michele McGuire’s co-pilot succumbed to the altitude and mellowed in his back seat aboard the Cessna 172 Skyhawk. Like 47 other dogs rescued Sunday, Diggs was part of The Great Escape II. Set up by Animal Rescue Flights, The Great Escape was a collaboration of shelters and pilots to save the lives of death-row dogs.

And it’s volunteer pilots like Westminster resident McGuire who make the operation feasible. Because they love animals and flying, the pilots risk gusting winds and spend countless dollars to find the puppies a happy home.

“It keeps you sharp, you network with some pilots and get to save some fur balls in the process,” McGuire said. “There are enough requests that I could fly everyday. But most pilots are weekend warriors and weather permitting, we fly as much as we can.”

Diggs started his week at the Anderson County Animal Shelter in South Carolina. But this morning, he hopped aboard Matt Paxton’s airplane in Salisbury, N.C., and flew in to Frederick, where he met up with McGuire. She then flew him to Montgomery, N.Y., where he was greeted by a receptive bunch from Pets Alive Animal Sanctuary, who couldn’t get enough of the pup. Though McGuire bonded with Diggs and maybe would have loved to take him home herself, her part of the mission was complete.

Since September, she’s been flying dogs just like Diggs who need to be rescued from shelters that euthanize unwanted pets. In her 16 missions, she’s flown to many different places with all kinds of company. “My record is 16 puppies [at once],” she said. “We had crates and things all stacked up in here.”

Even after months of loading dozens of puppies on flights, animal lovers say more needs to be done.

Law Wright, of West Chester, Pa, who met McGuire in New York, said the dogs rescued on Sunday came from a shelter that will get about 16,000 dogs per year and only 5,000 are adopted. “The rest are euthanized and it is awful,” Wright said. “And that’s typical of counties in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.”

Caring People

Chatting over lunch with McGuire, Lori and Joe Bisnov, of Gaylordsville, Conn., empathized over the number of dogs being put to sleep at animal shelters.

“In the South, they’re not as educated about spaying and neutering their pets,” Lori Bisnov said. “So it’s just a really good feeling knowing that you did something to [save] a dog.”

Jerry and Leslie Smith, of Waynesville, N.C., spent time in the fields at Frederick Municipal Airport walking the dogs and wondering how so many good dogs could be euthanized, too.

“It’s our first rescue flight and I just want to take them all home,” Leslie said. “As many as 400 per week get put to sleep [at Anderson] and it’s just terrible. They’re so trusting and all of them are adoptable. But it is nice to know there are areas in the country where the spay and neuter [mentality] is working and you can move these dogs around to where they’re wanted.” As Kerry Clair, of Pets Alive Animal Sanctuary in Middletown, N.Y., came running out to greet Diggs once he landed in Montgomery, her arms were already out to embrace the 6-month-old pup.

“Diggs you are just so precious,” she said. “You’re going to get a good home. And Michele, thank you so much for doing this.” Pets Alive is a no-kill shelter that took in 32 dogs Sunday from the South. Clair said 95 percent of the total dogs at the sanctuary come from kill shelters. Before letting McGuire take off from the Orange County airport, Julia Ryan gave her a big hug and thanked her again for her repeated efforts.

Ryan is the co-founder of Animal Rescue Flights and she’s continually coordinating rescues across the region.

“A little bit more than a year ago this started … and now we have about 300 pilots and 100 ground volunteers helping us move animals every weekend,” Ryan said.

“We’re trying to save as many dogs as possible, but in some areas there’s just a huge over-population problem.”

A long day

McGuire only flew one leg of the rescue, but it was plenty taxing.

An 11 a.m. take-off time from Carroll County Regional Airport, meant she was prepping her Cessna before 10.

Once, she landed in Frederick and had lunch at the Airways Inn Restaurant with a few other pilots, it was off to the tarmac to wait for the incoming dogs.

By 1 p.m., about 10 dogs from the Anderson Shelter had flown into Frederick and were stretching their legs. McGuire met the dogs with treats and co-pilot bandanas. After coercing Diggs into her plane, a 2 p.m. takeoff into a 15 mph headwind put McGuire and Diggs on track for New York at 4 p.m.

Diggs snoozed off and on after crossing the Susquehanna River over Columbia, Pa., until about Middletown, when the plane started its descent from 5,000 feet to land at the Orange County Airport in Montgomery.

As the pup was playing with folks from Pets Alive, McGuire waited out the winds. Eventually the 20 mph gusts eased. She fueled up and was off for Carroll again by about 5:15 p.m.

Headed right into the sun and a bit of a head wind, McGuire’s Skyhawk averaged about 100 knots on the journey home and gently landed back in Carroll shortly before 7 p.m.

“I hope Diggs has a happy home,” she said as the day ended. “And it’s a shame we can’t rescue more, too, because they’re all lovable dogs.”

Reach staff writer Bryan Schutt at 410-857-7886 or

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